Saturday, November 22, 2008

“The Last Dying Gasp…”: Updated

This has been an interesting discussion that has gone to a few different places around the internet. I wanted to point out some of them.

Jordon Cooper: I interact with Bob Hyatt over the topic more.
Bob Hyatt: His Facebook comments where Tony Jones has chimed in.
You may not be able to access that link unless you are friends with Bob or Tony.

“The Last Dying Gasp…”

I recently had the privilege to have an (all be it brief) conversation with Bob Hyatt via He stated in his update a very intriguing statement.

“I think I heard the final gasp of the emerging church's ability to speak prophetically to the Church today. Shame.” (1)

This was in response to a recent statement made by Tony Jones concerning about monogamous homosexual couples:

“…I now believe that GLBTQ can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state” (2)

Now to be fair to Tony Jones, I believe he is really trying to work through this issue. I see he has a mixture of personal reasons as well as he is trying to work out theological reasons for his statement. In all I see the dialogue around Tony Jones on this is very refreshing though I do not hold his view point. Also, to be upfront, I am not addressing Tony’s statement at this time as I am holding back my thoughts until Tony can work through this more. I do have a great respect for Tony and believe over all he has some very insightful things to say in the emerging conversation.

Now, Bob Hyatt’s statement intrigued as well as bothered me. Not that I dislike Bob, rather I truly have great respect for him also. We have some theological differences yet over all I see that these are minor as opposed to some that hold his systematic viewpoint. Bob is a very open person to lively diologue and I have enjoyed his thoughts over the brief years I have known him.

The part that intrigued me was that Bob seemed to be saying that part of the history of the emerging church was that it came out of the conservitive evangelical church. I agree that in a fashion this is true. If one reads many of the writers like Tony Jones, Doug Paggit, Dan Kimball and Mark Driscoll they will state it all started with them as they were young pastors involved in Youth Specialties. I do not deny that this is true, rather I see it as short sited in the over all history of the emerging church.

Dan Kimball points out that the term is not new with his friends or him. In a post The Emerging Church circa 1970 Dan points out a book written by Bruce Larson and Ralph Osborne who address the church in the changing times Dan quotes the book:

"When historians of the future look back at the 1970's, they will doubtless see this is an era of chaotic change in the Church, a day of new beginnings, a strange mixture of despair and hope, frustration and boldness. disillusionment and expectancy."

Dan points out that this is very true... he states:

"Over 35 years have past since this was written, and how true those same words can be said of today's church. Chaotic change, new beginnings, frustrations and boldness, disillusionment and expectancy, despair and hope. Culture has changed since then, and quite a significant change in the church has emerged since then."

Yet, what bothers me about Bob’s assertion is that even though, as Dan Kimball points out, the term has been around much longer than Tony Jones or himself, is to me the actual “conversation” has been around before creation. I see that the conversation started with God Himself in Genesis 1:3 as God spoke “Let there be…” and it was. I see that this is the “Logos” of John 1 for the word “logos” means more than just “Word” as it is translated, rather it means a continuous thought in the form of a conversation.

Interestingly a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus who resided in Ephesus taught that logos was “the Word (Logos) as an ordering principle of the world” . (3) To connect the dots for you, John was referring to the same Logos that Heraclitus taught about yet instead of the impersonal “Logos” which was a “principal” John connected this “Logos” with Jesus. John wrote from Ephesus which was the very place Heraclitus was held in high regards.

So we must see that the idea, of this principal or logical order which Heraclitus used the word “Logos” held in its definition much more than “word” as we try to use it today. Further understanding of “logos” is that it is not only this eternal principal that holds all things together, it was also in thought a conversation. (4)

Again, all that is to say I see the emerging conversation is eternal and the very conversation God started in Genesis.

I see that to make the statement as Bob Hyatt stated, “I think I heard the final gasp of the emerging church's ability to speak prophetically to the Church today. Shame.” (1) as missing the big picture.

Now as far as Bob’s thoughts on whether the emerging church was historical conservative, I see his point, yet, I have been a part of the conversation for about 5 years and have seen that there are quite a few that are from the liberal side. So, as far as I am concerned Tony was and is a liberal and nothing has really changed in my mind about him. To be a liberal does not disqualify one’s voice from the conversation. In fact that is the beauty to me of the conversation is that all have a voice and labels do not matter that much.

As far as the other thing that bothered me. Bob spoke of the prophetic voice that now is “gasping”. This bothers me as I see the prophetic as God’s voice and not our own. Tony’s statement may or may not disqualify him as prophetic as it will yet to be seen. Yet, I see that to open the doors of the church to the GLBTQ communities is not a bad thing but a good thing as the Spirit can work in their lives as He does in my own. We must never underestimate the Power of God as He works through His Spirit Who was given to lead us in all Truth.

Again, I see Bob may be just shooting out a momentary reflexive thought. I hope he will unpack his thoughts on this. I see that all this disagreement as a really great thing. I see that it opens the door to healing the divisiveness that has harmed the GLBTQ communities. I pray that this be so. We must remember the emerging conversation is not “just” about us, but about the Kingdom of God. We must not lose sight that we are privileged to be part of the Greater Things of God. As I told Bob in our conversation, “Emerging to me is not a movement or organization. It is growth. Tony is on a journey and came to conclusion that I even disagree with. Yet, again, this is by far not the final gasp... I see it as taking on a new form in a sense... expanding outward as does the Kingdom of God”




John Gary Feister said...

Hey, Iggy!

I read the article on "The Last Dying Gasp...". I have two questions. The first is: what is the GLBTQ? From the context, I gather it's "Gay & Lesbian something or other. Please explain.

The second thing is this (and it's not really a question):

I believe that American and Western Christians have a tendency of always trying to reinvent the wheel, i.e., to reinvent Christianity. I believe the motives are sincere (usually it's cultural & contemporary relevance), but I question the source or origin. I say this because I've seen movements come and go with great fervor and zeal; but eventually, there seems to be a "seperation of ideas and direction", which is usually (but not always) the beginning of the end.

Recently, I've come to believe that if we would really give ourselves to living the Gospel, we would be relevant - no matter what culture or age we lived in. The Gospel is the power of God to all who believe (Rom. 1:16) and Christ is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:24). The Gospel is a Person, living in persons who have given up their own rights and agendas; Christianity is Christ living in us and through us, so that we live in Him and are conformed to His likeness in holiness and righteousness. That's pretty relevant to a fallen humanity, I think.

I believe Christianity works when it's Christ doing the work. The Church doesn't need to "emerge"; she just needs to start being a lovesick Bride. The Church needs to be followers of Christ instead of seeking to be interior designers of the Kingdom. Nothing needs to be re-engineered. God made the Church - and no matter how screwed up or sickly she may be at times, she's the Bride of Christ and the gates of Hell has not ever, and shall not ever, prevail against her.

Please understand that none of this is intended in judgment or criticism, just offering my dialogue. I don't think for one minute that I have my finger on the pulse of the Church worldwide. I just wanted to give my thoughts and to hear yours (or anyone else's) in return.

With humility and sincerity,

Unknown said...


GLBTQ means as you thought. Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-trangender-qestioning.

I think the thing is that so many think of the emerging church as trying to reinvent Christianity... some might be... yet many of us see it as a rediscovering of what was lost by traditions and really bad theologies that are out there.

I see that when I found Grace, I emerged into a fuller understanding of my position with God by Grace through Jesus. In this also as I stated, I prefer emerging conversation as emerging church gives the impression of a separation between this "church" and that "church" which most of us in the emerging conversation do not believe... mostly this is the outsider perspective that is foisted on us. Rather, we are speaking of the Kingdom of God which is eternal and everlasting and that we are a part of... that is not reinventing Christianity at all for how could we do such a thing?

For many of us, and especially why I was drawn to the EC was that there was a great understanding of the Grace of God... by filtering all we see through Grace we see things much differently... we see people even more different... as scripture states:

2 Cor 5:15. “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

If regard people from a worldly view we limit what God is doing in them even if they do not yet know Him. Yet if we view people through Grace and as reconciled… and need to know that, then we view them as much more than GLBTQ. Do we accept them in Christ or do we reject them for their sin that Jesus took away at the Cross? Why is their sin stickier than mine?

Now, if they do not come to a saving knowledge of Christ then of course none will matter and all is lost for them and us. Yet again, if they do, then it is the job of the Holy Spirit to lead them and correct them and teach them as He does us.

Again as far as the Emerging Church reinventing anything there is a tendancy for us to bristle at the thought as it is not that we are reinventing, but emerging from the legalism, teachings, doctrines and false ideas made up by man that are thought to make us more holy or acceptable. I found for me though I am one voice, which many of us have come out of legalistic backgrounds and found Grace. This messed us up… for we found we love others and the Church often stands in the way of this Love for others.

I think one thing that has emerged that the Church as lost.. is hope.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your respect for Tony, and the fact that you are giving him time to work through this. I was on a similar journey recently, and although I came out on the conservative side of it, I lost friends in the process. Tony is a good man, and a man of God, and I believe we need to pray for him, not condemn him. God bless you.

John Gary Feister said...


Thank you for your gracious response. Your explanation of the Emerging Church/Conversation was helpful. Again, I wasn't intending any judgment or condemnation of anyone involved at all.

Over the years, I've grown very weary of American/Western Protestant Christianity for a couple of reasons.

First, much of Protestant theology is a blind, knee jerk reaction to Roman theology. We've inherited doctrines that we've never really searched out. Proverbs says it is the glory of kings to search out a matter, and although it may vary a little from group to group within the Protestant camp, I would say that, for the most part, we've failed to do so. Therefore, we are fighting a war (largely among ourselves) that has been over for awhile. We can defend our doctrines without ever really seeking the truth behind it.

Secondly, American/Western Protestant Christianity seems to have produced an "a la carte"Christiantity, i.e., a "pick and choose" Christianity. This one really concerns me. I literally meet sincere brothers and sisters daily who follow the Lord Jesus on their terms. They love Grace, Mercy and charismatic experiences that affirm them and make them feel good,but they explain away the discipline of the Cross in daily life. They choose His teachings that bring them comfort and peace, but they reject anything that asks more of them than they want to give, anything that makes them uncomfortable or that means suffering. In other words, anything that means dying to self. And what we're left with is shallow Christians who never mature. They never learn to walk in the Spirit, so they eventually end up walking as carnal Christians, believing the whole time that they are mature "little Christs".

That's why I'm often skeptical and weary of some "new" thing in American Christianity. Again, I do not mean to presume or give a blanket judgment on anything "new"; I guess I feel like it's "Groundhog Day" (the movie) in the American church. It feels like I'm watching the same rerun again.

I hope this makes sense. I sincerely don't mean any harm to anyone, and I'm terrible at communicating my thoughts at times. So, if I have failed to speak with humility, mercy and grace, please forgive me and disregard my words. Thanks and may God lead us all into His truth and His fullness. Amen.

Doorman-Priest said...

I thought the statement was prophetic itself.

Anonymous said...

Emerging to me is all about the journey. While I have concerns with Tony's statement.........I am quite willing to wait and see where he goes with all this. I am one of those left leaning emerging "kinda" guys so I am somewhat sympathetic to Tony and how he is working through this.

In recent months I have been seeing a psychologist on a weekly basis. First time in 51 years I have really sat down and openly talked with someone. It has been tough. I shared with him that people tend to over judge me because they catch me when the pendulum is swinging to the farthest extreme. That's just the kind of person I am. Often I end up somewhere between the extremes and people need to give me the space to work that out.

So it is with Tony. I am going to let his pendulum swing and see where he ends up.